Ala balik (Salmo platycephalus)

Also known as: Flathead trout, Turkish trout
GenusSalmo (1)
SizeLength: c. 40 cm (2) (3)
Weightup to 989 g (3)

The ala balik is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Distinguished by its broad, flat head, the ala balik (Salmo platycephalus) has a very appropriate species name, as ‘platycephalus’ means ‘flat head’ in Greek (2). A streamlined fish, the ala balik has a strong tail to help it to chase prey and move up and down the river to spawn (2), as well as a blunt snout and large eyes (2) (4).

The fins are large (4) and are bright yellow-orange (2), while the body is dusky brown and is darker on the upperparts, shading to a lighter tone on the underside (4). As with all other salmon and trout species, the ala balik has a small, fleshy adipose fin (2).

An unusual trait of the ala balik is the lack of distinctive markings on the body of the adult, although juveniles do have spots and other markings (2).

The ala balik is endemic to south-eastern Turkey (1) (5). It is restricted to a few tributaries of the Zamanti and Seyhan rivers (1), namely Karagöz, Soğuksu and Uzunyayla (1) (4).

High mountain streams are the preferred habitat of the ala balik (1) (4). This species generally seeks the cooler stream pools and rapids of the Seyhan River Basin, which flow from natural springs (2).

Despite having many of the biological and physical features of other salmon and trout species, such as an adipose fin (2), the ala balik is different in that it is non-migratory (1) (2) (4), and lives its entire life in a freshwater environment (2).

The spawning period of the ala balik is in the autumn (4), usually between October and mid-December (3). The female ala balik lays a clutch of eggs which is then fertilised by the male, and the species is known to be a brood hider, which means that it hides the eggs but does not take care of them (5). The ala balik can live for up to 10 years (4).

The ala balik generally feeds on bottom-dwelling amphipods, as well as insects and sometimes even fish. This species feeds primarily by sight (2).

The ala balik faces several threats, including the introduction of non-native trout species such as rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to its habitat (1) (3) (4). Rainbow trout are predators of the larvae of the ala balik, and also act as competition for both food and space (1) (4).

Introduced northern pike (Esox lucius) have been reported in the ala balik’s habitat, which could also pose a predatory threat (3).

Illegal fishing using nets is a further threat to the ala balik (1) (4).

Despite being classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1) and Endangered on the Endangered Species Act (1973) (2) (6), there are very few known conservation measures in place for this species (1) (6). Fishing of this species is officially prohibited, and as such may afford the ala balik some protection (4).

Various conservation measures have been proposed, including the protection of the freshwater springs on which the ala balik heavily depends (2) (3). Detailed studies of the current population status of this species, as well as its biology and ecology, should also be carried out. Additionally, the release of cultured rainbow trout should be avoided (4).

More information about salmonid species:

More information on freshwater fish:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. Hildyard, A. (2001) Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
  3. Kara, C., Alp, A. and Fatih Can, M. (2011) Growth and reproductive properties of flathead trout (Salmo platycephalus Bhenke, 1968) population from Zamantı Stream, Seyhan River, Turkey. Turkish Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 11: 367-375.
  4. Tarkan, A.N., Tarkan, A.S., Bilge, G., Gaygusuz, Ö. and Gürsoy, Ç. (2008) Threatened fishes of the world: Salmo platycephalus Behnke, 1968 (Salmonidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 81: 371-372.
  5. FishBase - Ala balik (November, 2011)
  6. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Species profile - Ala balik (Salmo platycephalus)